There are more than 11 million children in England. Around 3.5% or 390,000 of these children received safeguarding support from Children’s Services in England last year. If we delve further into these statistics then we see that 50,000 of these children were identified as needing protection from abuse. However you see these statistics, we can all agree that if even one child needs support from abuse or neglect, then we have a problem.
Thankfully cases of cruelty are rare and incidences such as that of baby Peter Connelly are not commonplace. 10 years ago he died at the hands of his mother, partner and partner’s brother. It was the literary definition of a tragedy. The death of any child falls within this category but having the responsible party as a ‘family member’ adds a chilling undertone.
Every single local authority in the UK felt that moment 10 years ago. It sent a chill across the country and left many looking for answers, with the questions still resonating today.
Who is responsible?
As we do after every tragedy, we look to seek justice. Beyond the family, the wider health and social care services were called into question. The Sun newspaper launched a ‘campaign for justice’, that was targeted at social workers and their managers. It asked for all those involved in children’s services at the North London Borough in which Peter lived to lose their jobs. It was a request that was granted by the then Children’s secretary, Ed Balls.
In 2011 the court of appeal decided that Sharon Shoesmith, then Director of Children’s Services at Haringey Council was scapegoated. She and the team at Haringey were painted as villains. Despite this, there is little acknowledgement that the original response was mistaken in its focus.
We recently sponsored the Social Worker of the Year Awards to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that Social Workers put forward. Yes, baby P was a tragedy and should never happen again but to scapegoat one particular area when there were multiple agencies involved seems quite short sighted in its thinking. Shared responsibility leads to shared learning and a shared focus on a better future. We believe in the work that Social Workers do, but collaboration and not blame is the future of successful safeguarding
What has been done?
Whilst the baby P case inevitably lead to a shortfall in recruitment for social work, especially in child protection, it's not all doom and gloom. More diverse routes into the profession through training programmes such as Step Up to Social Work and Frontline have been implemented with reduced caseloads seen as a priority. This is positive and can be seen as a progressive step forward for the industry but there is still a shortage of Social Workers in the UK.
Statutory guidance on child protection has also been reviewed in light of the tragedy. The focus upon sharing of information, a multi-agency approach, with no agency left as a silo has also emerged as best practice. This sense of shared responsibility, to place the child first is the new normal. Their health and well-being are handled as the priority that it needs to be and the knowledge that to build a full picture, you need every piece of the jigsaw. Combine this change with increased public awareness around abuse and there is a real focus on safeguarding children. It is everyone’s business.
All of this is extremely positive but the industry cannot get complacent. Consistent reviews and tweaks of working practices are required and learning to do more with less is needed. Consistent budget cuts to local authorities necessitate the need to prioritise and ensure maximum focus at all times. As an organisation, OLM was created to develop technology solutions that could make the lives of everyone involved in health and social care easier. We support Social Workers.
However, no man or woman is an island; the future of safeguarding is effective collaboration. How do we break the silos and ensure collaboration?
Early indicators of vulnerability and harm can be identified if partners work together.
The ability for multiple agencies to use or view systems is central to new ways of working across the care sector. We have built unique functionality to enable different agencies to work together effectively.
Crucially our Platform is able to support different models of working to ensure the council and their partners are able to use the appropriate integrated working models to enable collaboration to occur.
Supported models using the Platform for Care:
Model 1: Agencies using the same application with secure personalised views/portals to information
Model 2: Linked up views from across different systems
Model 3: Direct integration between systems
The software allows multiple agencies to simultaneously enter information into a single online form, keeping our process times to an absolute minimum. A sophisticated security model sits at the core of the Platform, which supports multi-agency usage whilst protecting sensitive data. This robust security is applied across the system right down to individual case note level.
Our Guardian solution is a great example of technology supporting successful collaboration working.
Guardian solution is a flexible and configurable Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) software application. It has been built in conjunction with Devon County Council, the original creators of MASH. It has been specifically designed to support the recording and process management needs of the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub process.
Within the first six weeks of using the Guardian software, Wolverhampton City Council, recorded:
319 cases were added to the system
Equivalent of 50 new cases per week
73 of these were classified as red and needing urgent referral
This meant that these 73 risks have been identified and address that might otherwise have slipped through the net. The West Midlands police described the system as
User statements of our multi-agency software included:
‘Guardian has helped facilitate the gathering of information from external agencies in an efficient and timely manner.’
‘The colour coding has helped to focus workers on the urgency or in some cases non-urgent manner of the referral. This also extends to seeing agencies flagging up urgency enquiries on their end.’
‘The audit at the end of the referral has given management the ability to easily see who has been providing information and who to tell to regarding the enquiry.’
The West Midlands police described the system as ‘…the best system that they have worked with’.
Whilst we have developed innovative approaches to assist collaboration, crucially supporting the way partners want to/have agreed to work together rather than letting technology dictate the process.
Contact us today to see how we can support your new collaborative working initiatives.